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Chapter 41 : Biodiversity Prospecting: The INBio Experience
Bioprospecting is defined as the systematic search for genes, compounds, designs, and organisms that might have a potential economic use and might lead to a product development. In 1991, Costa Rica's National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) set a landmark when it signed the first commercial bioprospecting research collaborative agreement (RCA) between a pharmaceutical industry and a biodiversity-rich country organization: Merck & Co. and INBio. More recently, the Diversa-INBio RCA was highlighted during the meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP6) in 2002 in The Hague as a “well-known example of an access and benefit-sharing” agreement (CBD, 2002). To date, INBio has signed more than 20 agreements with industry that represent $0.5 million (U.S.) per year for bioprospecting activities and $0.5 million per year for capacity building, technology transfer, and empowerment. INBio's portfolio of research collaborative agreements includes some in the biotechnological area, which involve microorganisms. By 1995 INBio set up a small microbiology laboratory for in-house antibiotic testing and began the long-lasting partnership with Diversa. INBio will continue to promote the development of biotechnological activities, with emphasis on microbial prospecting, isolation, and identification of genes with potential application in the industry and agriculture.